Dr. Dr. Stupid (a.k.a. Orac)

As much as I hate to admit it, I’m not perfect.

I know, I know, given the (usually) tasty (usually) Respectful Insolence™ dished out nearly every day here, that’s a hard thing to believe, but it’s true. In fact, occasionally I even do something that is so unbelievably, incredibly, outrageously boneheaded that there’s only one thing to do: Blog about it.

About four months ago, I decided I needed (in actuality wanted) a new cell phone. So I perused the offerings of Sprint, the company I happen to be with right now, mainly because of an insanely cheap plan that we managed to get a few years ago and that has kept us from switching to other companies. It came down to a choice between a black Sanyo Katana and the Samsung A900. Because Sprint didn’t yet have any Motorola Razr phones, those were the closest Sprint had. For a number of reasons, not the least of which was that, to use the broadband Internet on the Samsung phone would require the addition of an expensive option that I wouldn’t use, I opted for the Katana. True, the camera on the Katana is a crappy 640 x 480 pixel model and nowhere near state of the art, but I almost never used the camera on my old phone anyway; so this deficiency just wasn’t important to me.

Overall, I was happy with the Katana, my only complaints being that its ringer wasn’t loud enough and I sometimes couldn’t hear it in a moderately noisy environment and that the screen rapidly started to look like crap. After three months, it looked scratched and dull. Then, about a week ago it appeared to be bubbling up and separating from the phone. So, the other day, I made a trip back to the store to complain.

Can anyone guess what happened?

I’ll tell you. I showed the phone to the clerk, who looked at it, slipped her fingernail under the bubble, and peeled off the plastic cover that was on the screen, saying, “Oh, that’s just the plastic screen protector that the phone’s packed with. On Sanyo phones they’re really close to the size of the screen.. See? Now the screen’s much brighter.”

I lamely thanked her and slunk back to my car, muttering to myself.

Stupid is as stupid does, I guess.

In any case, anyone feeling sorry for my amazing lack of intelligence in this one incident, feel free to make me feel less stupid by confessing your own most stupid incident in the comments…


  1. #1 Marky
    December 5, 2006

    Hee, hee, hee…

    Over Thanksgiving I was complaining that the keyboard on my microwave was delaminating, and I didn’t want to buy a new one. Sure, it’s 10 years old, but it works fine, but I can’t buy parts, blah, blah, blah.

    My mom started picking at the plastic, and I told her to stop, she was just making it worse.

    Duh… she peeled the plastic off, and now it looks like I’m good for another 10 years.

    Sorry Mom.

  2. #2 Soren Kongstad
    December 5, 2006

    I bought my mom a new phone for her home, the same type I had myself.

    The next day I had her in the phone. The new phone didnt work. The display just showed eights in the display (88888888888..)

    I had her remove the battery, replace it with a new one, but to no avail. Then I told her to go to the store. She did and replaced it with a new one. When she got home the new phone was broken to.

    Then she noticed an airbubble underneath one of the eights.

    She removed the plastic sticker imprinted with eights, and since then she has been happy with her new phone 😉

    So not only her techno able son, but also the store was fooled. (I am however proud of the fact that I had apparently removed the sticker from my own phone before using it)

  3. #3 Lucy Jr
    December 5, 2006

    Someone beat me to it… you hadn’t ripped away the screen protector? Are your armchairs still covered in plastic too?

  4. #4 Friso
    December 5, 2006

    I used to work in one of these phone shops, and something like this happened at least a couple of times per week. Once, we had a customer complaining that his new wireless handset wasn’t working. It worked much better after we removed the wrapper from the batteries.

  5. #5 decrepitoldfool
    December 5, 2006

    My watch has a hard crystal, but it still gets scratched up. So I keep a piece of super-clear packing tape on it. When the tape gets grungy, I replace it.

  6. #6 Do'C
    December 5, 2006

    Oh Orac, don’t feel too bad.

    My dad recently did the exact same thing (minus going to the reseller)…of course he’s 67.

  7. #7 clone3g
    December 5, 2006

    You know those American Cheese slices come individually wrapped, right?

  8. #8 Mary
    December 5, 2006

    Would this be a good time to review proper condom usage?


    (Aw, Orac, Marky and I share the same fragment of brain. I went through the same thing with my old microwave, and I know I did something similarly dim with a small piece of consumer electronics in the past year, but I’m too old to remember what it was.)

  9. #9 Eni`eh
    December 5, 2006

    I went to a store to get the outboard motor of our boat fixed. Because the thing is very heavy, I put it in front of the shop and went in to get the owner. “What brand?” asked the shop keeper. “Yamaha” I told him.

    So we went outside, and when we approached the engine I saw to my shame on the side of the motor:


    in ~160pt font (I mean, really, covering the entire side).

    I still don’t know why I ‘assumed’ the engine was a yamaha, but this was a bit painful. Guy must have thought I wasn’t able to read.

  10. #10 J-Dog
    December 5, 2006

    Practicing “safe phone” is good. Just think how scratched up your screen would be, if you didn’t leave the “special removable cover” on it. I personally recommend this story. Stick to your story, and no one will know. Whatever you do, don’t blog about it, or everyone will know!

  11. #11 Dave Godfrey
    December 5, 2006

    You can buy replacements for this screen protector. Its actually a good idea given the kind of thing people put their phones through. How many people actually use the leather cases? I’d definitely recommend anyone with a digital camera or PDA to use them.

  12. #12 TheBrummell
    December 5, 2006

    I used to work the plumbing department of a hardware store. About once a month we’d get a professional contractor or plumber in the store, complaining that he’d (always a male) specifically ordered a stainless steel drain cover, and we’d sold him a blue one.

    It was always fun to peel back the (blue) plastic shipping cover in front of him and say “Here you go, sir. May I assist you in any other way?”.

    Don’t feel bad about your phone; you probably made the store clerk’s day.

  13. #13 llewelly
    December 5, 2006

    You know those American Cheese slices come individually wrapped, right?

    Yes, but why does orange stuff inside taste so much worse than the clear stuff it’s wrapped in?

  14. #14 Stephen
    December 5, 2006

    I very nearly did the same thing with my new phone, but realised what was happening just in time.

    What I did do was take my brand new computer back to the store to complain the monitor connection was broken. Turned out this computer had a video card with its own connector … (My excuse is that the second socket was half hidden under an overhanging lug – which is true but didn’t make me feel any less embarrassed.)

  15. #15 Nance Confer
    December 5, 2006

    OK, my excuse is that I got the thing second-hand. So what if that doesn’t explain anything. . .

    I just walked out to the garage and peeled off the bubbly and “damn, this thing is falling apart, how old IS it?” plastic cover over the buttons on the microwave.

    I now have a brand-new looking microwave! Thanks Marky’s Mom! 🙂


  16. #16 Jeff
    December 5, 2006

    After owning my laptop for about a month, the wireless network suddenly quit working. After spending two days going through all types of settings to try to figure out what the problem was, I finally took it back to the store to get some help. The very prominent “Wireless” switch on the front of the computer was switched to off. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

  17. #17 David
    December 5, 2006

    More thanks to Marky’s Mom!

    I also have a microwave that now looks brand new, instead of aging terribly. Except for the inside. 🙂

    They really ought to make these kinds of things more obvious for the common-senseless segment of the population.

  18. #18 Calladus
    December 5, 2006

    The very prominent “Wireless” switch on the front of the computer was switched to off. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

    Let me guess, Toshiba, right? I love their laptops except for that little ‘feature’.

    My wife had a problem with being cut off from our home wireless network while watching videos. It turned out she would get too close to the screen and hit that button with her ah… (ahem)

    After laughing hysterically I calmed down enough to explain the cause of her problem, and then flee.

  19. #19 windy
    December 5, 2006

    I got a used Nokia ‘communicator’ (antique smartphone) and wondered for a couple of months why the volume was so low. Turns out it was because the microphone is on the back side of the phone and I had been talking to the front 🙂

  20. #20 Renee
    December 5, 2006

    I was in my house 10+ years before I realized that there was a clear plastic film covering over the dial panel on both my Whirlpool washer and dryer.

    I also have the microwave touch panel bubbly cover problem, but I can’t find the edge of the plastic cover in order to pull it off. I just leave it be.

    Back to the origin of this thread – did the owner’s manual explain to remove the plastic film? (Or was the owner’s manual ever opened?)

  21. #21 Jeff
    December 5, 2006

    Let me guess, Toshiba, right?

    Actually, it was a Sony. The same thing’s happened several times since, but at least now I know what to do.

    My boss has a Toshiba laptop, though. The other day, after he and another guy spent 20 minutes trying to figure out why his PowerPoint presentation wouldn’t make any sound, they called me in to look at it. After a few minutes diagnosing it myself, I finally found the volume control dial on the front, and turned the volume up for him.

  22. #22 Calli Arcale
    December 5, 2006

    I actually deliberately leave the plastic film on most things as long as I can. This is important as I have a three-year-old daughter who usually has sticky fingers. 😉 She’s getting better about not touching screens, but Baby #2 is on the way, so there won’t be much of a reprieve for our electronic devices.

  23. #23 Ahistoricality
    December 5, 2006

    I went for a year without being able to open the trunk on my car from inside…. the valet switch in the trunk was flipped, yeah.

  24. #24 IAMB
    December 5, 2006

    I used to do something similar with the faces on my watches, which never seemed to stay unmarred for more than a couple months. Eventually, after tallying up what I’d spent to replace glass and watches over the course of several years, I decided it was time to cough up the change for a decent watch and bought one with a sapphire crystal. Two years later and it’s still just fine, even though the steel around it has a couple marks.

  25. #25 Linkmeister
    December 5, 2006

    I had a flat tire on my 86 T-bird once, and I couldn’t get the lug wrench onto the bolts on the hubcap. When the AAA guy showed up, he pried off the fake plastic cover over the wheel and was able to reach the actual lug nuts just fine, thank you very much.

  26. #26 Spoony Quine
    December 5, 2006

    ` That reminds me of something that happened just today: I just paid my Sprint bill twice – I wrote them a check on the 16th and then I paid over the phone because they said they hadn’t gotten my check! Then, the next day my check was cleared (which means they had had it), and that nearly cleared out my bank account.
    ` I didn’t know this so I continued to use my debit card for small purchases plus 30 dollars per, and was overcharged hundreds of dollars.
    ` Well, I just mailed rent and now my check is gonna bounce and I can’t get any of my money back. I feel really stupid now!!!

  27. #27 JKB
    December 5, 2006

    Voted for Bush in 2000. Talked my wife into voting for Bush in 2000. Still hearing about it six years later.

  28. #28 Daephex
    December 5, 2006

    About ten years ago, I got a call from my neighbors to assist them with their new Macintosh, which didn’t seem to be working. I was surprised that they were having a difficult time– these same neighbors had constructed their own home, were avid gardeners (in fact, one had his doctorate in biology), and were fantastic quilters. I went over, assuming that the problem was something beyond my understanding.

    The problem, it seemed, was that the computer would not turn on– and that the “foot pedal” was apparently broken. You guessed it– crafters! They had the mouse on the floor, like a sewing machine. Go fig.

  29. #29 suirauqa
    December 5, 2006

    Since I have never done anything stupid in my entire life…
    Whew! Now with that out of the way, a little tale Orac would appreciate. A friend of mine, then a first-year medical student, was taking his end-year final exam, and this was during the oral (viva voce) exam after the written part. He was to be quizzed on histopathology of uterine cancer. The first question was from the external examiner (showing a tissue section of uterus): what organ is this?

    My friend went blank. No answer for a minute. The internal examiner, our professor – a kindly old gentleman – wanted to give him a hint. He said, “Think about an organ that neither you nor I have…” My friend looked up with a sparkle in his eye; he’d got the hint. He said confidently, “Ah, the brain!”

  30. #30 Infophile
    December 6, 2006

    Well, I’ve got a minor one that happened to me, and a better one that happened to a friend a long time ago:

    I was using voice chat over the internet a while back and other people were complaining that it sounded like I was talking into the mic from across the room. I tried a ton of things, but I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it. It wasn’t that the cord wasn’t plugged in… oh. I’d put the cord for the headphones into the mic slot instead, and apparently headphones will pick up and transmit sound just as a microphone does.

    What makes this story interesting is what happened the next week when my mic actually broke. After I figured it out, the conversation went something like this:

    “Hey guys, can you hear me?”

    About 5 people say, “Yeah” at once.

    “Just wanted to let you know that my mic’s broken.”


    “This time I’m talking through the headphones on purpose.”

    Now, for the one that happened to my friend. He had bought some electronic device (can’t remember what after all this time), and had jumped right in to trying to use it without reading the instructions. He then complained to me that it wasn’t working. I took a look at the instructions, and then said, “You see this switch? This turns it on.”

  31. #31 plucky punk
    December 6, 2006

    Don’t feel even remotely bad. Having worked tech support for many an electronics corporation (including cell phones) rest assured you’re not alone.

    One common thing with samsung phones: The menu options are numbered, 1. Missed Calls, 2. Phonebook, etc. Number 5 is messages, and it’s in the middle of the menu, which is the one that’s selected when you first open the phone. On the top of the screen it says “5. Messages.” At least three or four times a day someone would call complaining that their screen was telling them they had five messages that they couldn’t get to.

    The worst, I think, was when I worked for Earthlink and this guy called in who kept getting a “mailer daemon” message back every time he sent an email. The thing is, the emails were getting to the address he was sending them to just fine. It took me like 45 minutes to figure out he was putting his own email address in the “Cc” field and *spelling it wrong.*

    Although I don’t know if that was worse than the woman I talked to while working TiVo tech support who had her surge protector plugged into itself.

  32. #32 DrFrank
    December 6, 2006

    Although I don’t know if that was worse than the woman I talked to while working TiVo tech support who had her surge protector plugged into itself.
    I dread to think how that unusual interfacing was achieved 😐

  33. #33 Dave M
    December 6, 2006

    My high school chemistry teacher had a saying he used alarmingly often (never to me, of course …): “It works better if it’s plugged in.”

  34. #34 Dianne
    December 6, 2006

    “It works better if it’s plugged in.”

    Had one of those moments myself a few years ago…One morning as oncology clinic was starting, I found that my printer wasn’t working. This was something of a disaster, since it meant that prescriptions, lab orders, etc couldn’t be printed and therefore nothing was going to get processed properly.

    I called tech support in a huff. I had, of course, carefully checked to make sure that the computer was turned on before calling and had rebooted, just in case.

    The first question they asked was “is it turned on?”

    “Yes,” I replied indignently, thinking “I’m not THAT much of a user.”

    While tech support was asking about other potential problems, noticed that while I’d checked that the computer was on, I’d missed checking the printer’s status.

    Oops. Off.

    Turned it on and everything worked perfectly.

    Too embarrassed to admit the truth, I told tech support “Oh, it spontaneously started working again. Thanks for your help.” and hung up quickly before I could ask anything else foolish.

    Oh, well, it gave the patient, who had end stage pancreatic cancer, a laugh, which is certainly worth a little embarrassment.

  35. #35 Martin Wienerburger, God's Profit
    December 6, 2006

    I once forgot to type “C:” in my DOS emulator and spent five minutes wondering why my old games wouldn’t work.

    That doesn’t count?

    In that case, I plugged my digital camera into my computer and tried to figure out why I couldn’t import my pictures until someone pointed out that I had to turn the camera on.

  36. #36 HCN
    December 6, 2006

    Should any of you find yourself bored, I present this webpage full of all sorts of stories:

  37. #37 Sarcastro
    December 6, 2006

    Hell, I’m a sysadmin for a largish web retailer who supports over 200 installations, a highspeed fibre network and a score of heavy duty web servers. I’ve got 15 years of experience, a degree in electrical engineering and certifications out the yinyang… and yet I still called tech support a couple of weeks ago just to find out the caps lock key was on.

  38. #38 Pieter B
    December 6, 2006

    To protect those screens from getting scratched up — phone, iPod, digital camera — I can heartily recommend the products of ShieldZone, in which I have no financial interest. Their iPod protectors allow you to still fit the ‘Pod in a standard dock, unlike most other cases/protectors.

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